U.S. troops in Poland are preparing for the possibility that American citizens will flee Ukraine if Russia decides to invade, Reuters reports.
The news: The White House approved a new Pentagon plan for U.S. troops in Poland to help thousands of Americans leave Ukraine.
- About 1,700 troops are being sent to Poland to build checkpoints, tent camps and other facilities as a measure to help secure any fleeing Americans, according to The Wall Street Journal.
- These troops cannot enter Ukraine, nor will they specifically evacuate Americans.
- There are no plans for the U.S. troops “to conduct a noncombatant evacuation operation akin to the U.S. operation in Afghanistan last summer,” officials told CNN.
Flashback: Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said earlier in February that the troops — part of the 82nd Airborne — would be “multi-mission capable.”
- “They can do a lot of things,” Kirby said, when asked whether they would help with any potential evacuation. “It’s a very versatile force. And I think their versatility, their ability to — to move quickly and to conduct a range of missions across a range of contingencies, which is well proven, that’s the reason why the secretary has ordered them to go.”
The bigger picture: Some of the top Russian military leaders flew into Belarus Wednesday to take part in a massive military exercise, The Washington Post reports. This has instantly raised alarms in the West that a Russian invasion of Ukraine could happen.
- Per The Washington Post, Russia said the drill is to “unprecedented security threats.”
- “Russia and Belarus have encountered unprecedented threats, the nature and, perhaps, concentration of which are, unfortunately, much larger and much more dangerous than before,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.